Tuesday, August 27, 2013
MANILA-Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada is pushing through with the Senate investigation on the sex-for-flight scheme and sexual abuses against distressed overseas Filipino workers allegedly perpetrated by erring embassy and labor officials, particularly those posted in the Middle East.
The inquiry is jointly being conducted by the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation (Blue Ribbon) and Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced last August 23 that they will file administrative charges against three overseas labor officials, upon the conclusion of their fact-finding team’s own investigation on the sex-related controversies.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that she approved the team’s recommendations to charge Labor Attaché Adam Musa for gross negligence, OIC Labor Attaché Mario Antonio for grave misconduct, and Assistance Labor Attaché Antonio Villafuerte for simple negligence. Also, the complaints of sexual harassment against Mr. Villafuerte will be referred to the DOLE Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI).
“We still have to find out, establish and institutionalize measures on how to strengthen the protection and further promote the welfare of the runaway OFWs in the custody of our Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), and prevent abuses against distressed OFWs from happening again right inside the Bahay Kalinga,” Jinggoy stressed.
The lawmaker also added that while the DOLE team has not found evidence on the involvement of its officials on the “sex-for-flight” scheme, the Senate probe uncovered “hints” possibly leading to the modus which preys on the female OFWs into prostitution or sexual favors in exchange for their repatriation.
Earlier, “Michelle” (not her real name) testified before the Senate that she was one of the victims of sexual advances of Asst. Labor Attache Villafuerte when she sought the assistance of the POLO after escaping ill treatment from her employer in Saudi Arabia. Michelle also said that she was advised, not just once, by Villafuerte to accompany an Egyptian national in his trip to the Philippines for her immediate repatriation.
Villafuerte vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
At least 3 other female OFWs – “Josie,” “Analiza,” and “Angel” (not their real names) – appeared and narrated their harrowing ordeal inside the POLO.
After the second public hearing last August 15, Sen. Estrada said that the Blue Ribbon Committee was requested to track and invite other witnesses who will corroborate the testimonies of the complainants regarding the sexual advances allegedly made by Mr. Villafuerte, and the counterclaim of the labor official.
Sen. Estrada, Labor Committee chairman, also stated that the legislative inquiry intends to define the functions and proper coordination between the labor and embassy officials under the “One Country Team” approach where the head of the post is the ambassador.
The third public hearing is scheduled on Thursday, August 29 at 2:30 pm.
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